Thursday, March 19, 2009

When a Man Hits a Woman

I don't pay much attention to pop culture gossip and celebrity drama. I'm usually more interested in the next weird movie coming out like "Monster vs. Aliens" (I so have to see that movie). This business with Rihanna of "Umberella...ella..ella.." fame being savagely attacked by R&B boyfriend Chris Brown has been weighing on my mind though. First that something like this happened at all and second, the predictable and sad rationalizations and excuse making people engage in when men act this way. I actually had a co-worker tell me that Rihanna must have done something to get her man so mad. How sad, especially in the so-called 21st century that such medieval ways of thinking about violence against women persist. What is most alarming is that a new generation of girls seems to be getting the message that when a man hits a woman is somehow anything other than what it is, unacceptable under any circumstances. Check it out:

"IN the hallway of Hostos-Lincoln Academy in the Bronx this week, two ninth-grade girls discussed the pop singer Chris Brown, 19, who faces two felony charges for allegedly beating his girlfriend, the pop singer Rihanna, 21. At first, neither girl had believed Mr. Brown, an endearing crooner, could have done such a thing.

“I thought she was lying, or that the tabloids were making it up,” one girl said.

Even after they saw a photo of Rihanna’s bloodied, bruised face, which had raced across the Internet, they still defended Mr. Brown. “She probably made him mad for him to react like that,” the other ninth grader said. “You know, like, bring it on?”

The girls agreed that Mr. Brown overreacted. According to court documents, the fight last month erupted after Rihanna read a text message to Mr. Brown from another woman. Mr. Brown, the affidavit said, then punched, bit and choked her.

Should he be punished? No, said the girls, whose names were withheld at the request of the school. After all, they said, Rihanna seemed to have reconciled with Mr. Brown.

“So he shouldn’t get into trouble if she doesn’t feel that way,” one girl said. “She probably feels bad that it was her fault, so she took him back.”

Her friend nodded. “I don’t think he’ll hit her like that again,” she said.

On blogs and social networking sites, teenagers are having an e-shouting match about this highly publicized episode — perhaps the first time their generation has been compelled to think aloud about dating violence.

And what may be surprising is the level of support for Mr. Brown. While thousands of teenagers have certainly turned on Mr. Brown, many others — regardless of race or gender — defend him, often at Rihanna’s expense.

In a recent survey of 200 teenagers by the Boston Public Health Commission, 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible for what happened; 52 percent said both bore responsibility, despite knowing that Rihanna’s injuries required hospital treatment. On a Facebook discussion, one girl wrote, “she probly ran into a door and was too embarrassed so blamed it on chris.”" (Read the whole thing here)

Lets leave aside for a moment that these so called "dating" relationships among adolescents are of questionable value to begin with. There is something really wrong when folks representing the future of our civilization do not say clearly and loudly that violence between men and women is not to be tolerated.

The Baha'i teachings are unequivocal on this point:

"The use of force by the physically strong against the weak, as a means of imposing one's will and fulfilling one's desires, is a flagrant transgression of the Bahá'í Teachings. There can be no justification for anyone compelling another, through the use of force or through the threat of violence, to do that to which the other person is not inclined. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has written, "O ye lovers of God! In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force, constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned." Let those who, driven by their passions or by their inability to exercise discipline in the control of their anger, might be tempted to inflict violence on another human being, be mindful of the condemnation of such disgraceful behaviour by the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh."
(The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)

The challenge of dating violence among our young people serves to underscore the power that Baha'i efforts around the world to support the moral development of junior youth can have. We've got a lot of work to do.

What do you think readers?